At least 80 dead as truck crashes into crowd in France
State of emergency to be extended for 3 additional months after Nice attack, says French president
At least 80 victims, including children, were killed and 20 others wounded after a truck ran over crowds in the southern French city of Nice during Bastille Day celebrations Thursday, according to French authorities.
"France has been struck on the day of her national holiday ... the symbol of liberty," President Francois Hollande said in a nationally televised address in which he said a state of emergency that was scheduled to be lifted at the end of the month would be extended for three more months.
Initial reports said a white truck drove into crowds for approximately 2 kilometers (1 mile) along the Promenade des Anglais following celebratory fireworks.
Holande denounced the "terrorist attack which can not be denied and once again an absolute emergency,” he said. "France as a whole is under the threat of Islamic terrorism,” he said. “We have to demonstrate absolute vigilance and show determination that is unfailing."
The French leader said his country would "strengthen our efforts in Syria and Iraq against those who are attacking us on our very soil."
The government had called up operational reserves to help support gendarme and police forces, especially to assist in controlling borders.
Hollande said he would go to Nice on Friday to support the city and hold a restricted security and defense meeting at 9 a.m. local time at the Elysee.
Several witnesses said the driver, who was killed in the attack, exited the truck and began shooting randomly. Another witness told French broadcaster BFMTV that he saw other men with guns in the truck. French authorities are working to determine if the attacker had any accomplices.
It is "the worst tragedy in the history of Nice”, Mayor Christian Estrosi said earlier.
Estrosi said flags would be lowered across the city Friday. A jazz festival due to begin Saturday and a Rihanna concert planned for Friday have been cancelled.
The city’s prosecutor's office confirmed hundreds are injured as counter-terrorism investigators in Paris have taken charge of the investigation.
The French daily Le Figaro quoted security sources as saying, “several weapons, guns and grenades were found inside the truck." It also said 16 people were in critical condition among the dozens injured.
The local newspaper Nice-Matin and French broadcaster BFMTV reported that the attacker is a 31-year-old local resident with dual French-Tunisian nationality, while citing security sources who said an ID card had been found inside the truck.
Iranian journalist Maryam Violet, who was visiting Nice for holiday, told the U.K.’s Guardian that she witnessed the attack and many Muslims are among the dead.
“There were so many Muslim people who were victims because I could see they had scarves over their head and some were speaking Arabic. One family lost a mother and in Arabic they were saying she’s a martyr,” she said.
“People were celebrating and it was so peaceful, it was a festivity vibe, it was right after the fireworks that the truck came and ran over people.”
The French Muslim Council condemned “with the greatest vigor”, the attack.
“France has been hit yet another time by a terrorist attack of the utmost severity”, according to a statement that added this “odious terrorist act took aim at our country on the very day of its national holiday (Bastille Day), a day which celebrates liberty, equality and fraternity”.
The Council called for French Muslims to pray Friday for “the memory of the victims of this barbarian attack.”
Shortly after news of the tragedy broke, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the attack “in the strongest terms”, saying Washington stands in “solidarity and partnership” with its oldest ally.
“On this Bastille Day, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world,” he said in a statement, “and we know that the character of the French Republic will endure long after this devastating and tragic loss of life.”
The attack came just hours after the French president announced a state of emergency that was declared after deadly terror attacks last year would not be again extended and would come to end July 26.
France has been under a state of emergency and high terror alert since a Daesh-blamed attack last November killed 130 people across Paris.
Before Thursday’s attack, the state of emergency was extended three times: twice for three months, and the last time, on May 19, for two months to ensure security during the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament that ended Sunday.
The last extension was also implemented to help tighten security for the Tour de France -- world's biggest road cycling competition -- which ends July 24.